A qualitative study of staff perceptions of men's experiences of sperm banking
In 2000 alone 134, 272 men were newly with diagnosed with cancer in the UK. Treatments for neoplasms may result in sterility, and as such sperm cryopreservation is recommended for all men about to undergo treatment. Whilst research in the field of psycho-oncology is expanding the area of fertility preservation, and sperm banking in particular, has remained largely medically dominated. This study begins by reviewing the existing literature on the psychological implications of sperm cryopreservation for the oncology patient. Whilst scanty, research is available from the paediatric population, however there is an absence of research focusing upon the adult male. Interviews were undertaken with six healthcare professionals, four based within a reproductive medicine centre and two within oncology. Interviews focused upon exploring professional's perceptions of men's psychological experiences of sperm banking, and their perceived role in the process. The interview transcripts were analysed using Grounded Theory methodology, which also informed the data collection. A core category was developed termed 'negotiating threat'. This category details how sperm banking is used as a way of managing the threat generated by a diagnosis of cancer and possible infertility. A process model was also proposed containing four areas of negotiation, labelled: the threat and impact of existing attitudes, knowing enough, accessing and using supportive relationships, and coping and defence. Each area refers to a specific task encountered, and details how threat can also permeate sperm banking itself. The limitations of the study are discussed. Clinical recommendations made include the provision and development of training for staff and the possible introduction of a support group for men. Further research is required into the direct experiences of men and also into the difficulties for staff in suspending normed beliefs and attitudes regarding fatherhood.